In 1969, twelve women gathered in a neighborhood home to make a difference in their community, and to create some long-lasting, time-honored friendships in the process.
Their small (and powerful) enclave formed the Edina Federated Women’s Club, part of the much-larger General Federation of Women’s Club (GFWC), which was started in 1890 by Jane Cunningham Croly, a plucky New York City journalist who, after being refused admittance to cover a dinner honoring Charles Dickens because she was a woman, started the women-only Sorosis Club, the precursor to GFWC.
Seems like the perfect role model for a group of women with a mission, who now meet at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church.
“General Federated Women’s Club is the largest philanthropic service organization in the world,” says Susan Smith, publicity chair of the Edina chapter, and member since 1990. “We are involved in many things, but our primary focus is advocating for issues of concern that affect women and children, and raising money to help alleviate [related] issues.”
It’s little wonder then that the Edina Federated Women’s Club hit the ground running. One of their first forays into service became a mainstay for Edina kids and parents alike: Santa House. Every December for almost 25 years, the ladies took over the clubhouse at Braemar Golf Course and created a Christmas shopping experience complete with a holiday boutique, candy store, children’s general store, toyshop and more.
“People would bring their kids to meet Santa, watch a puppet show, and buy gifts for family members for $2,” says Smith. “We would purchase odd lots from stores, make things, and go to the American Cancer Society’s Garage Sale to find the items. All of the proceeds went to charity.”
Along the way, the group has wrapped gifts at local bookstores, served meals at soup kitchens, packed food to be sent off to myriad countries, sent boxes of necessities to soldiers in Iran and Afghanistan, collected and distributed holiday toys for families in need, purchased 100 pairs of pajamas for kids at shelters, and pretty much everything in between.
They’ve raised almost $1 million for approximately 200 different organizations in the greater Twin Cities area, including Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery, Edina Community Library, Edina Senior Center, Volunteers Listed to Assist People (VEAP), and Feed My Starving Children, to name a few.
Wanting to help a few organizations on a grander scale, for the last 11 years the group has held a gala, Feds Fest, that benefits two local organizations, last year they donated $70,000. This year is no different; the Black and White Gala will be held on January 14th at the Westin Edina Galleria, and will offer dinner, cocktails, a silent auction, live auction, raffle, and entertainment by Tony Sandler.
This year’s benefactors will be Amicus/RADIUS, a residential program designed to help girls (12–18 years old) who are on court-mandated probation develop healthy relationships and put them on the path to self-empowerment and self-discovery, and AT HOME GROUP, a program that removes the small obstacles that can keep women out of work.
But true to the mission of the founders, the Edina Feds Club also fosters friendships. Besides coming together for their monthly meetings, there are bridge clubs, book clubs, an out-to-lunch bunch that meets the first Friday of every month, bunco, a “chick flicks” group, and a “gourmet” group for those feeling particularly ambitious. And, it probably goes without saying that the ladies will always be there if one of them ever needs anything.
“Our Edina club is now up to 104 ladies; four of those are charter members,” says Smith. “We have ladies come to meetings on scooters or on oxygen; some have had knee replacements. Our motto is ‘founded on friendship and strengthened by service,’ and we have really proven that to be true. I guess you could say we’re a pretty good group of ladies.”
For more information on how to become a member of EFWC, or to purchase Black & White Gala tickets, contact: [email protected].